Indefinite curfew was imposed in Meerut on Wednesday after a minor argument over the parking of a tractor which had come to pick up a Jamait returning from Orissa spiralled out of control and led to riots in many parts of the city. Now,the incident is being linked to Mondays demolition of a Municipal Corporation slaughterhouse that has been leased to the family of BSP MLA Haji Yakub for years.
The trouble began at around 4:30 pm on Tuesday when 17 persons,belonging to Singhavali village near Meerut were returning after attending a religious congregation of Muslims in Orissa. A large group of villagers arrived in a tractor to receive the Jamait at the Meerut railway station,parking it in front of a few shops nearby.
A small argument between the shopkeepers and driver turned into a scuffle and two constables allegedly intervened and beat up a few members of the Jamait,five of whom were later rushed to the district hospital and discharged later.
By evening,however,the incident took on communal overtones and mobs began to gather at the hospital upon hearing that Muslims had been beaten up by Hindu shopkeepers and policemen. By 10 pm,the situation went out of hand when a group torched two police vehicles on Bhumiya Chowk. It did not take too long for the clash to spread to other parts of Meerut at 14 points in four police station areas (Brahmpuri,Lisadi Gate,Kotwali and Delhi Gate) rioting took place between 10.30 pm and 2.00 am.
Over 3,000 rioters,some armed with country-made revolvers,played hide and seek with the police and RAF personnel for almost four hours,pelting stones,throwing petrol bombs and damaging shops and public property.
With the situation worsening,District Magistrate Kamini Chauhan ordered curfew in the four affected police station areas. It is not decided yet when the curfew would be called off but it will remain at least till Friday, said Chauhan. Meanwhile,10 rioters were arrested by the police.
On Wednesday,Meerut remained tense,with four companies of the RAF (Rapid Action Force) and three companies of PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary) deployed along with police personnel in the city.
While the parking scuffle may have triggered the violence,the administration as well as locals say that Meerut has been on the boil for the last few months over the slaughterhouse issue. We are investigating the matter,but the way the riots broke out simultaneously at 14 places suggest it could have been pre-planned, said Radha S Chauhan,Administrative Commissioner.
Eyewitness Savitri Jatav shares the view that the slaughterhouse issue may have fanned the riots. They were very angry over the demolition. It is that anger which spilled on to the street, said Jatav.
On Monday,the city administration demolished nearly 400 furnaces at the slaughterhouse following a June 6 order from the National Human Rights Commission. The NHRC had given the district administration time till June 23 to stop illegal slaughtering in the abattoir,which though it only has the capacity to process the meat of 350 animals,was being used to slaughter nearly 5,000 animals daily.
Closing the slaughterhouse had figured prominently on local BJP leader Rajender Aggarwals agenda during the Lok Sabha elections. I had promised that the slaughterhouse would be closed. In fact,in yesterdays rioting,it was not locals but interested parties who run the slaughterhouse who disturbed the peace, Aggarwal said.
The Municipal Corporation gives out the slaughterhouse on lease to a private contractor on yearly basis. However,from 1990 onwards the slaughterhouse was leased out to the family of present BSP MLA,Haji Yakub.
The slaughterhouse was to be modernised but they started illegal activities,including exporting the meat, alleged Ajay Gupta,former board member of the Municipal Corporation.
Reacting to the allegations levelled by BJP and the Municipal Corporation,Haji Yakub said,The riots had nothing to do with the slaughterhouse. In fact,it is just a tactic to divert attention from the police and administrations incompetence. The two constables who beat up Jamait members should have been suspended immediately and the rioters should have been arrested on the spot.